Eagles break three-game losing streak against rival Georgia State

The Georgia Southern Eagles faced the Georgia State Panthers in Statesboro on Friday, Feb. 16. Hanner Fieldhouse was packed to capacity. 

Kaitlin Sells

Georgia Southern was able to take a win in the rivalry series Friday night against Georgia State, beating them 85-80 in an action and tension-packed game.

Even before the game began, there was an electric energy from a sold-out crowd in Hanner. An hour before the game, before the gates even opened, there was a student line that wrapped halfway around Hanner.

Once inside, the stadium was buzzing with excitement and anticipation, and was filled with white- it was a true white out as it was obvious that everyone got the memo from GS Athletics.

{{tncms-inline account=”George-Anne Sports” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">They’re on their feet and ready for some basketball <a href="https://t.co/FyTYpZCPps">pic.twitter.com/FyTYpZCPps</a></p>— George-Anne Sports (@GeorgeAnneSport) <a href="https://twitter.com/GeorgeAnneSport/status/964682224707751936?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 17, 2018</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/GeorgeAnneSport/status/964682224707751936″ type=”twitter”}}

First Half

The Eagles came out strong, being first on the board and building their lead from there. The obvious tension in the air between the two teams and the two crowds only seemed to fuel the Eagles as they really pulled their offense together that has seemed to be missing over the past three games.

They hit 15-of-27 field goals and 6-of-12 three-pointers and showed a lot more passing and a lot smarter plays. The selfish basketball we saw from the Eagles from the last two games was nowhere to be seen during this game, and it played majorly to GS’s advantage.

The Eagles played smart on defense as well, keeping their man to man playing tight, fouling little, and letting little shots get through. With 10 defensive rebounds, the Eagles didn’t give the Panthers much hope when it came to a second chance at a rebound shot.

The Eagles looked confident on the court as they managed to be the last to score during the half, going into the locker room leading the Panthers 38-30.

{{tncms-inline account=”George-Anne Sports” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Solid last possession as Eagles go to the locker room leading 38-30. <a href="https://t.co/5DKt84sGYw">pic.twitter.com/5DKt84sGYw</a></p>— George-Anne Sports (@GeorgeAnneSport) <a href="https://twitter.com/GeorgeAnneSport/status/964694892768309248?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 17, 2018</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/GeorgeAnneSport/status/964694892768309248″ type=”twitter”}}

Second Half

State came out rather sluggish and slow, and Southern was only too happy to take advantage of that, going on an 8-0 run to open the second half over the Panthers.

“We started off the second half, they went on a little run, Jake [Allsmiller] was the one that made some big threes to kind of get us back, get us a lead,” Coach Mark Byington said.

Once GS gained a double-digit lead it seemed that GSU woke up and started to play a little more intense.

The second half very much proved to be a battle of the offenses, as with 10 minutes of play left in the game both teams began stepping up, as it varied from a four to six point gap between the two teams as they both began putting points on the board. GS never lost the lead throughout the game and never lost confidence in the way they played.

With about ten minutes left in play was when things really began to heat up, due to both teams entering the bonus- but not necessarily stopping with the fouling. Within no time both teams had entered double bonus, and most points were being produced from foul shots. GSU had trouble controlling themselves as two of their players fouled out, one of them being star sophomore guard D’Marcus Simonds.

{{tncms-inline account=”George-Anne Sports” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Simonds fouls out. The crowd gives him what you could call a standing ovation. Eagles up 76-70 with 1:03 in regulation.</p>— George-Anne Sports (@GeorgeAnneSport) <a href="https://twitter.com/GeorgeAnneSport/status/964713334896513024?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 17, 2018</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/GeorgeAnneSport/status/964713334896513024″ type=”twitter”}}

The Eagles found themselves falling to the Panther’s level of play, but quickly pulled themselves out of it.

“Like I told the guys, we just had to stay calm and play our game,” junior guard Tookie Brown said about how the Eagles kept their level head when tensions were on the rise with the Panthers.

The last 30 seconds of the game felt like it lasted an eternity due to constant fouls and timeouts being called stopping the clock. When the final buzzer sounded in Hanner the crowd went wild- Georgia Southern had beaten Georgia State, and had taken a win for the rivalry series.

{{tncms-inline account=”George-Anne Sports” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Eagles win 85-80. Tookie Brown led the team with 23 points. What a game. Eagle Nation needed this win. <a href="https://t.co/5B6dDVrkEf">pic.twitter.com/5B6dDVrkEf</a></p>— George-Anne Sports (@GeorgeAnneSport) <a href="https://twitter.com/GeorgeAnneSport/status/964718847143096320?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 17, 2018</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/GeorgeAnneSport/status/964718847143096320″ type=”twitter”}}

In the end Brown put up 23 points on the Panthers, followed by senior guard Mike Hughes with 14 points. The biggest development shown within the Eagles during this game was the teamwork they showed and the confidence that boosted within each player.

“We were playing great basketball,” Byington said. “We played with much more confidence.”

There proved to be two big differences in Hanner Field House that weren’t there the first time GSU and GS matched up this season: Tookie Brown and the fans. Brown was unable to play in the last faceoff between the two rivalry schools due to injury, and the team suffered because of it.

“Having Tookie Brown was big,” Byington said. “Having him as the pace setter, the leader, making plays was big.”

There’s no question of having home court advantage, but the environment in Hanner Field House for that game was like no other. The fans were constantly on their feet, making noise, cheering, booing, dancing to the music breaks during time outs. The “Hanner Hooligans” created an atmosphere that motivated the Eagles to do their job and get the win for their school.

{{tncms-inline account=”Mark Byington” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Thanks to everyone who packed Hanner tonight. We wouldn’t have got it without you!!!</p>— Mark Byington (@GaSouth_CoachB) <a href="https://twitter.com/GaSouth_CoachB/status/964732654292733952?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 17, 2018</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/GaSouth_CoachB/status/964732654292733952″ type=”twitter”}}

“Tremendous environment. We don’t win the game without that environment and that fans,” Byington said

What’s Next

It is well in Statesboro as the Eagles prepare to take on next opponent, UTA in Arlington, Texas Feb. 22 at 8 p.m.